Every organization is vulnerable to PR crises at any moment. Government investigation. Nasty litigation. Financial turmoil. Sudden management change. Data breach. Product recall. Industrial accident. Environmental controversy. Natural disaster.
It’s not a matter of “if” it will happen to you. It’s simply a matter of “when.” You’ve invested years of blood, sweat and tears to build what you have. Don’t risk it all by being unprepared.
The first minutes are vital. The first hour, a lifetime. What you say and do during that period is amplified. Mistakes made early on — a careless word, an erroneous statement, an appearance of confusion — can devastate your reputation and destroy your business.
Equally dangerous is an absence of facts. The media abhors a vacuum and will fill the void with rumors. The Boston bombings and Texas industrial explosion are the latest examples.
There’s an old wire service anecdote about the difference between how Associated Press and United Press International reported deaths in disasters: UPI started at 100 and counted down. AP started at zero and counted up. Too often, today’s media follow the UPI rule — the more sensational the better.
The flip side is that the media is hungry for any solid information. This is an opportunity for you to set the tone and shape the story — if you’re fast and credible.
That’s the value of knowing in advance how to communicate in fast-moving situations and of coaching your staff on what to do — and not do. It won’t prepare you for all scenarios. Nor will it let you ride out the entire storm. But it will help avoid early blunders while your Crisis PR team gets in place to battle the firestorm and position you for the future.
Will key executives be notified without hesitation at the first whiff of trouble? Have you identified those who are qualified and authorized to speak for the organization — and those who aren’t? Have you devised standby statements that will satisfy the media, calm early emotions and buy you precious minutes?
With all that’s at stake, being prepared for PR crises is a small and prudent investment with a high ROI.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.